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Sects or Schools in Buddhism

Buddhism encompasses several sects or schools, each with its own unique teachings, practices, and interpretations of Buddhist doctrine. Here’s a brief overview of some major Buddhist sects:

1. Theravada Buddhism: Also known as the “Teachings of the Elders,” Theravada is the oldest surviving branch of Buddhism and is prevalent in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar (Burma). It emphasizes the importance of individual effort in attaining enlightenment and follows the earliest recorded teachings of the Buddha, preserved in the Pali Canon.

2. Mahayana Buddhism: Mahayana, or the “Great Vehicle,” emerged as a distinct tradition around the 1st century BCE and is prevalent in East Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Mahayana teachings emphasize compassion (bodhisattva ideal) and the potential for all beings to attain enlightenment. It includes various schools like Zen, Pure Land, and Tibetan Buddhism.

3. Vajrayana Buddhism: Vajrayana, also known as Tantric or Esoteric Buddhism, is prevalent in Tibetan regions, Bhutan, Mongolia, and parts of Nepal and India. It incorporates tantric practices, rituals, and visualization techniques to achieve enlightenment swiftly. Vajrayana emphasizes the use of mantras, mandalas, and deity yoga as expedient means for realization.

4. Zen Buddhism: Zen originated in China as Chan Buddhism and later spread to Japan, where it became known as Zen. Zen emphasizes meditation (zazen) and direct insight into the nature of reality. It focuses on awakening to one’s true nature beyond conceptual thinking through intense practice under the guidance of a Zen master.

5. Pure Land Buddhism: Pure Land Buddhism originated in India and became prominent in East Asia, particularly in China and Japan. It teaches devotion to Amitabha Buddha and the recitation of his name (nembutsu) to be reborn in the Pure Land, a realm conducive to attaining enlightenment.

6. Nichiren Buddhism: Nichiren Buddhism, founded by the Japanese monk Nichiren in the 13th century, emphasizes devotion to the Lotus Sutra and the chanting of the mantra “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” as a means to enlightenment. It promotes social engagement and the idea of attaining enlightenment in this lifetime.

These are just a few of the major Buddhist sects, and there are many other smaller schools and traditions within Buddhism, each with its own unique practices and interpretations of Buddhist teachings.